Student & ECR Spotlight – Masha Remskar’s research into physical activity and mindfulness for better mental health

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes).

I graduated from BSc Psychology with Sport & Exercise Science (Hons) at the University of Exeter in 2019. Then I moved straight on to MSc Health Psychology at the University of Bath, where I met my current advisory team and have since been doing a PhD in Behavioural Science. In 2021, I undertook a 6-month secondment as Research Officer to a mindfulness non-profit, Medito Foundation. After returning to doctoral research, I stayed on their Scientific Advisory Board. I’m also a podcast host, consultant, speaker, teaching assistant and peer reviewer on the side. My PhD’s coming to an end soon though, so who knows which institution I’ll be at this time next year!

How do you explain your current research/job to friends and family?

I tell them I’m a researcher working to understand how we can help people exercise more, so that they’re less likely to get depressed or anxious. I also research whether mindfulness meditation may be helpful to people trying to change their habits and live healthier lives (e.g., start exercising), and why this might be. Finally, I look at how to best ‘package’ scientific insights for whichever group of people we are trying to help, making sure that they are part of the process and that the research we do works for them.

What is your main research interest?

I’m fascinated by the interconnectedness between mental and physical health. The area has seen incredible progress since the turn of the century – we learned how different physiological systems impact mental health (e.g., inflammation, the microbiome, or exercise for treating depression) and how the mind can impact the body (i.e., how our beliefs and mindsets shape our bodily responses). Recognising this interconnectedness and how we can best leverage it is perhaps the biggest health paradigm shift of our generation, and I’m excited to be advancing our collective understanding of it through my work.

Given unlimited funding, what would your dream research project be?

It’d be a whole body of work! Following on from my research interests, I’d love to run a trial exploring i) what mindsets are most conducive to choosing a healthy, active lifestyle, ii) how we can encourage and develop those mindsets through interventions, iii) then comprehensively test the interventions and scale them up if effective. It’d have to be mixed methods to get the most complete understanding, and we’d definitely include some cool psychophysiological measures (perhaps heart rate variability?) and make use of digital methods, like activity monitors and ecological momentary assessment. I’m excited just thinking about it – off to write a grant now!

What’s something you have learnt about your research or yourself that was unexpected?

I’ve learned how non-linear progress is. There are periods when nothing seems to go to plan or you’re working hard with not much to show for it, only to then see a burst of growth or a few successes at once. It’s taught me to be persistent and not expect immediate results, instead trusting that it’s all adding up to great things later down the line. And when wins do happen, big or small, take the time to celebrate your (and others!) achievements and appreciate how far you’ve come.


If you would like to get in touch with Masha, here’s her X, LinkedIn, and Institution profiles.